Boyz to Men?

We all start the same, young little things that have yet to know the world. Then we start to differ in ways we are raised. And also, the environment we are raised in. After watching “Boyz N The Hood,” I wondered how different my life would be if I grew up in South Central LA (circa 1980s and early 90s). According to the movie’s stats, it is where one of every 21 young men dies of gunshot wounds. So living out your teen years must be an achievement in itself. That’s quite startling and here I am worrying if I’d make it okay writing this review.

John Singleton’s feature debut chronicles three friends who grow up in that particular time and place.Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is one lucky kid, for he has wise and strong-minded parents (Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett), who teaches him the importance of respect, discipline, and responsibility. Because of them, Tre stands out since he’s raised to achieve a purposeful life. Across the street is his best friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut) who already has a son at a young age. A budding football star, Ricky hopes to land a sports scholarship to college. And finally, there’s Ricky’s brother Doughboy (Ice Cube), a good-for-nothing gangster who lacks a bright future. He isn’t exactly a bad guy. He’s more of a sad character, who was raised by his mom as hopeless.

“Boyz N the Hood” is a remarkable film from then 23 year-old John Singleton. It doesn’t only spotlight the compelling lives of a minority community, but also urges a new generation to rise up. The movie might be more than a decade old but its message is still relevant. It wonderfully strikes down the myth of manhood. Here, insecure boys act out tough by hiding behind guns. And all it amounts to is a childish game of chicken, with pathetic and deadly consequences. And in one scene, a father reminds his son that “any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise children.”

The movie is blessed to have a cast of actors who are still familiar to this very day. It boasts two future Oscar nominees (Fishburne and Bassett) and a future Oscar winner (Gooding Jr.). All three are very good here. Young Singleton himself received two big Oscar nods (writing and directing) for this film. It’s an accomplishment he has yet to top. I hope more young directors would step up like Singleton, who has something to say and wants to be taken seriously. Where’s the new blood in African-American filmmaking? I’d like to see more urban dramas that battle reality head-on with courage and good sense. If you look at movies such as “Crash,” “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” and “Hustle & Flow” – they’re all helmed by white directors. That’s quite startling and here I am feeling guilty that I’ve watched too many movies, just for the sake of entertainment. At least, I give films like “Boyz N The Hood” a shot and start to differ for the better because of it.

Grade: A-

Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, and Angela Bassett
Screenplay by
John Singleton
Directed by
John Singleton
Rated R